Posts Tagged ‘employee wellness’

Infographic: Optimizing Employers’ Health Program Performance

November 10th, 2014 by Melanie Matthews

Employers are rethinking their healthcare strategies to achieve a high-performance benefit portfolio by making sure their health plans are aligned, affordable, efficient and engaging, according to new research by Towers Watson.

In a new infographic, Towers Watson explores how employers are aligning health plans with broader goals and needs, making plans affordable for both the business and the employee, leveraging efficient strategies and tactics, and engaging employees in accountability for their own health.

 Optimizing Employers Health Program Performance

Population Health Framework: 27 Strategies to Drive Engagement, Access & Risk Stratification Faith-based integrated delivery system Adventist Health is on a mission to improve population health status with a wellness-based approach it estimates will eventually net $49 million in savings.

In Population Health Framework: 27 Strategies to Drive Engagement, Access & Risk Stratification walks through the elements of Adventist’s population health management program that engages individuals to modify behaviors and prevent illness in the future.

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Healthcare Business Week in Review: High Cost of Smoking; 4 Healthy Habits; Expanding Medicaid

June 13th, 2013 by Cheryl Miller

The High Cost of Smoking: Smokers cost more. That’s the bottom line from a new report from Ohio State University, the first study to take a comprehensive look at the financial burden for companies that employ smokers.

According to the study, U.S. businesses pay almost $6,000 per year extra for each employee who smokes, compared to the costs for employing workers who never smoked. Broken down, researchers estimated the following:

  • Lost productivity from smoke breaks cost employers more than $3,000 a year, by far, the largest drain on resources;
  • Extra healthcare costs for self-insured smokers came to $2,056;
  • Absenteeism from smoking cost $517 a year; and
  • Presenteeism, or reduced productivity related to the effects of nicotine addition, cost $462 annually.

The study focuses solely on economics and does not address ethical and privacy issues related to the adoption of workplace policies covering employee smoking. Increasingly, businesses have adopted tobacco-related policies that include requiring smokers to pay premium surcharges for their healthcare benefits or simply refusing to hire people who identify themselves as smokers. And while researchers acknowledge that providing smoking-cessation programs is an added cost for employers, they stress that employers recognize how difficult it is to quit smoking.

4 Healthy Habits to Reduce Heart Risk, Death: More bad news for smokers: those who otherwise maintain a healthy lifestyle will die sooner than those who do not.

According to a new study from Johns Hopkins University, exercising regularly, eating a healthy Mediterranean-style diet, maintaining a normal weight and, most importantly, not smoking can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of death.

Researchers found that adopting those four lifestyle behaviors protected against coronary heart disease as well as the early buildup of calcium deposits in heart arteries, and reduced the chance of death from all causes by 80 percent over an eight-year period.

Of all the lifestyle factors, researchers found that smoking avoidance played the largest role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality. Smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviors still had lower survival rates after 7.6 years than did nonsmokers who were sedentary and obese.

The findings corroborate recent recommendations by the American Heart Association, which call for maintaining a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish, keeping a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 25, being physically active and not smoking, researchers note.

Expanding Medicaid Best Option for States: Some bad news, or food for thought, for those policymakers not planning on expanding Medicaid in their states: they will leave millions of their residents without health insurance and increase spending, at least in the short term, on the cost of treating uninsured residents, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

If 14 states decide not to expand Medicaid under the ACA as intended by their governors, those state governments collectively will spend $1 billion more on uncompensated care in 2016 than they would if Medicaid is expanded, researchers say. In addition, those 14 state governments would forgo $8.4 billion annually in federal payments and an additional 3.6 million people will be left uninsured.

States that do not expand Medicaid will not receive the full benefit of the savings that will result from providing less uncompensated care, researchers note. But they will be subject to taxes, fees and other revenue provisions of the ACA.

Commercial Payors Lag Behind Medicare in Offering ACOs: And lastly, commercial payors aren’t offering as many upside-only payment structures that are most popular among early accountable care organizations (ACOs), according to an analysis by the Premier Healthcare Alliance.

The study of 85 payor arrangements found that more than one-third were for upside-only shared savings, most of which fall within the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) or Medicare Advantage (57 percent).

Other upside-only options were reported with Medicaid (7 percent), provider-owned plans (7 percent) and self-insured employers (7 percent).

However, upside arrangements are lacking in commercial markets. Among the ACOs analyzed, only 21 percent of commercial arrangements offer upside shared savings, and these were clustered in just four markets. In addition, agreements tended to be smaller in scope, usually for 5,000 covered lives or less.

9 Questions to Evaluate Your Culture of Health

May 9th, 2013 by Jessica Fornarotto

Webinar Replay: Health and Wellness Incentives: Positioning for Outcome-Based Rewards

“There’s reasonable research that shows that culture and a strong communications strategy are more powerful than an incentive in creating change. And when the three of them come together, it’s extremely powerful,” explains John Riedel, president of Riedel & Associates Consultants, Inc.

Prior to his presentation during HIN’s webinar, Health and Wellness Incentives: Positioning for Outcome-Based Rewards, Riedel mapped out nine questions organizations should ask themselves when driving toward a culture of health:

  • What’s the organizational support for employees?
  • Does the organizational support manifest a commitment to health?
  • Do you have a mix of programs and resources that serve all employees?
  • Do you have health policies in place in the company so that there’s a tangible communication around the importance of health?
  • Is senior management committed to workforce health?
  • Does the company provide ways of encouraging healthy behaviors, and not just by providing incentives but also in ways that changes can be made that will help you?
  • Does the company care about the well-being of their employees and does that come across?
  • Are you providing your employees different types of incentives? Encourage them to participate in events.
  • Are wellness goals aligned with the business strategy?

If you can answer yes to those questions, then you may not have a big issue with employees and ‘big brother’ syndrome. But no one size fits all.

Success is based on addressing challenges unique to your particular organization. And the beauty of it from my perspective, and I come from a systems thinking perspective, if you can come at these culture issues to a variety of different touch points in the organization, there are many ways you can start in.

One of the first things you want to do is make sure you’re establishing the wellness norms that work and make sure that you eliminate those that don’t. There are many companies who suggest, or indicate, that they are wellness-oriented. But often, there are understated policies that suggest, does my company care about my health? For instance, frontline supervisors who are still being evaluated on getting products out the door may be least interested in allowing their employees to take time off during the day for wellness activities. You have to get the message out to the whole organization.

Power of Extrinsic Incentives Sometimes Elusive

April 23rd, 2013 by Jessica Fornarotto

Webinar Replay: Health and Wellness Incentives: Positioning for Outcome-Based Rewards

“It’s important for companies to keep their options open when offering incentives, especially since the impact incentives can have on people could be a mystery,” explains John Riedel, president of Riedel & Associates Consultants, Inc. “Sometimes it’s the value of the incentive that can affect an individual’s engagement in a health and wellness program.”

HIN spoke with Riedel prior to his presentation during the webinar, Health and Wellness Incentives: Positioning for Outcome-Based Rewards. Riedel discussed how the rise in the cap on how much employees can receive in 2014 will impact program participation, how to address those older employees who could have difficulty with outcome-based incentives, and if companies should move toward programs with only outcomes-based rewards.

HIN: The cap on how much employees can either receive as a reward or be penalized is set at 20 percent of the total healthcare premium, or about $1,120 for the average employee. When this limit is raised to 30 percent in 2014, how might this affect participation and adherence, and on the structure of incentive plans overall?

(John Riedel): It’s 20 percent now, going to 30 percent. And for smoking cessation programs it’s going to be at 50 percent. An increase from 20 to 30 percent is not going to make a big difference. Employers are going to have more leverage with their total dollars that they can offer for either incentives or disincentives on the extrinsic side of incentives and disincentives. Certainly, innovative companies are going to find ways to use the additional dollars in creative and unique ways. On the whole, I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference with participation — getting people into programs and keeping them engaged. But I do think it’s important.

One of the issues that we have to contend with is incentives, and extrinsic incentives are important. Keep in mind though that we don’t know much about the same power that extrinsic incentives provide. We know that incentives can get people engaged in programming. They typically do well when you’re trying to get someone involved in a discrete program, like completing a health risk assessment (HRA). Though, we don’t know if incentives have a strong impact on people who are now engaging in healthy behaviors. It’s a complicated relationship and we have to be somewhat cautious in how we look at that.

Also, be careful when talking about outcome-based extrinsic incentives. There are going to be some employees who are typically older and maybe less educated. There could be employees who are higher risk who may have a harder time getting to those incentives, and perceive the incentives in an unfair way. We want to be careful that we don’t alienate people. The whole point is to motivate people.

The amount of the reward is not always a predictor of healthy change. Kevin G Volpp conducted some research on smoking and found that a $750 incentive doubled the number of people in the incentive group in terms of quitting smoking, and that’s a great outcome. But 36 percent relapsed over the longer term, which is significantly higher than usual relapse rates. That’s something we need to take into account. The interesting thing in that research is that they asked the people who actually quit smoking if they would have quit for less money. Eighty-seven percent of the quitters said they would have.

So yes, I think that raising the limit is helpful. The larger incentives you have, the more creative you can get. But at the same time, we don’t know enough about extrinsic incentives to know how that’s going to play out down the road.

HIN: Should companies be moving toward a program of only outcomes-based rewards?

My notion is that it should be built into an overall incentives offering. I know that there are companies who are moving toward outcomes-based rewards and that makes sense. But again, we still don’t know much about the impact of incentives, especially on the moderate to longer term behavior change component. It’s a complex issue and it’s important for companies to keep their options open.

With outcome-only rewards, you may have more of an issue regarding those people who have a harder time getting that outcome. You don’t want to create a non-compliance issue on the part of people who feel that they can’t get where they need to be. Find a way to make the incentive program fair to all. Be creative with using incentives for basic participation and for progressed-based incentives as well as outcomes-based. Create a package; each has advantages. We know that small rewards can be very powerful and have an impact on individuals. So it’s important to keep options open. A good approach when talking about outcome incentives, is to say, “If you do this,” and we lay out the criteria, “this is what you’re going to get in return,” and that makes sense. People want to know what it means for them and what they can do in order to get a certain incentive.

At the same time, in the field of behavioral economics, it’s very interesting. They suggest that sometimes, now that you’ve done this, here’s a reward for you, without letting people know in advance what you’re going to get. There’s a power in that approach as well. In other words, make sure that you provide rewards that employees understand. They know they’re going to get something, but at the same time, try some unique and creative approaches as well.

Progressed-based is important. We’re trying to change people’s behaviors. If we focus only on outcomes incentives, our concern is that when you provide extrinsic incentives — money — people often make a change, but they are often making it for the dollar and not for their health.

Make sure that you create an incentive program that includes simple items — gift cards and t-shirts work in some cases — to help people move along. And then offer outcomes-based incentives for people who are taking their health seriously. Make sure that everyone can get something and make it more challenging as you go down the road.